20 March 2022
OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.
Hello! Searches, criminal prosecutions, arrests, publications, a 13-year jail sentence is requested for Navalny – glory to Russia!
Searches and criminal cases. In the context of the war with Ukraine, the investigative authorities in Russia are continuing to investigate political activists and all those who speak out against the war. This week there have been searches on a mass scale, of Kazan civic activists, Pskov journalists and local Yabloko party leader Lev Shlosberg, and also of antifascists in Kaluga. New criminal trials for those who speak out against the war or for participants in anti-war rallies in the Tomsk region, St Petersburg and Moscow. In addition, a case has been opened against the popular blogger Veronkia Belotserkovskaya. Several cases have been opened under the new law against spreading false information about the actions of military personnel.
- Why is this important? Since the very start of the war, the authorities have embarked on a policy of totally suppressing any attempts to speak out about the war. They refuse to allow rallies, and those which go ahead anyway, without permission, are violently dispersed. The police behave very roughly, broadcasting propaganda about Nazis and collaborators. The new articles in the Criminal Code about discrediting the armed forces, and spreading fake news about them, are already being actively applied. But existing articles in the Criminal Code, for example concerning vandalism, slander, extremism and other things are also being readily used to scare people and silence dissenters.
The ECtHR has ruled that it is unlawful to ban rallies because of COVID. The decision follows a complaint by a Swiss trade union against the authorities in that country, but applies to all countries that have accepted the European Convention on Human Rights. In the opinion of the ECtHR, at the start of the epidemic states knew little about the nature of the virus and bans might have been a reasonable measure, but then the total denial of the right to the freedom of assembly became clearly excessive. This is very relevant to Russia, as the epidemic has become a convenient pretext for a de facto ban on opposition activity over the last two years. Meanwhile other mass events – sport, culture and politically loyal events – are held without opposition from the authorities.
- Why do I need to know this? It would have been interesting to see how the Russian authorities wriggled out of this ECtHR ruling. But it’s now academic – on 16 March Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe because of the war with Ukraine. True, our officials claim that Russia wasn’t expelled, we left ourselves – but what does it matter who gave the final push to liberate our country from human rights. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) is already proposing to bring back capital punishment, which has been moratoriumed since the ratification of the Human Rights Convention in 1998. Russia is heading into a deep ravine of hell and lawlessness.
A 13-year sentence has been requested for Navalny. The prosecutor’s office asked the court to sentence Aleksei Navalny to 10 more years in prison on charges of insulting the court and fraud. Taking into account the sentence imposed in the Yves Rocher case, the prosecution wants the politician to remain in prison for a total of 13 years. According to the investigation, Navalny spent donations to the Anti-Corruption Foundation on his own needs and insulted the judge and others involved in the trial for defamation of a veteran. The court sessions are taking place not in a court but in the prison colony where Navalny is serving his sentence.
- Why is this important? There is ample evidence that FSB officers tried to poison Navalny with the help of a secret bio-chemical weapon. The Russian authorities failed to kill Navalny and now want to put him away for as long as possible. We think a free Navalny on the streets of Russian cities is the last thing the authorities want – so they will pin the craziest and most absurd criminal cases on him, adding more and more jail time.
A solo picket during a live broadcast of propaganda. On 14 March, Marina Ovsyannikova, who has now left her job as an editor at Channel One, interfered with a live news programme by standing behind presenter Ekaterina Andreeva with an anti-war placard. Ovsyannikova later resigned from the channel and was detained immediately after the action. Initially it was reported that they wanted to institute criminal proceedings against her, but later she was only fined 30,000 roubles under an administrative article. This, however, is not a guarantee that the criminal case will not be pursued.
- Why do I need to know this? Ovsyannikova’s action encouraged a lot of people and inspired some hope in them – it turns out that the propaganda machine is not as monolithic as we are accustomed to think. We should also take into account the fact that Ovsyannkiova’s action resounded more loudly than the thousands of arrests and dozens of solitary pickets that have been going on all these weeks. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that, on the whole, propaganda remains a pretty effective tool for manipulating public opinion.
We have a new and extremely important report about how the authorities suppressed protests against military action in Ukraine during the first weeks of the war.
About the 13 March protests. Anti-war protests continue in Russia. On 13 March more than 850 people were arrested in 37 cities, and a total of almost 15,000 have been arrested in recent weeks. We summarise the outcome of the rallies here.
On torture at the Brateevo police station. Aleksandra Kaluzhskikh, who was detained on 6 March at an anti-war rally, was beaten and verbally abused at a police station in the Brateevo region. Audio recordings of the incident have already been published in many places. We recorded Aleksandra’s account with new details of what happened.
About Ukrainians in Russia. OVD-Info has learned that law enforcement authorities have started to check up on Ukrainian citizens living in Moscow. However, the authorities do not have a clear idea of what to do with them: some are asked to apply for a Russian passport as soon as possible, while others have reports of petty hooliganism fabricated against them. We publish accounts from Ukrainian Muscovites.
About detainees in Nizhny Novgorod. A young woman detained at an anti-war protest in Nizhny said that, at the police station, she and other detainees were forced to undress and crouch down – in the same way as happens when wardens at institutions of the Federal Penitentiary Service look for items hidden in prisoners’ bodies. You can read the story of Iva from Novgorod here.
Translated by Anna Bowles